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SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/1/17 10:09 a.m.

Quick Background

I am a HPDE instructor and have been tracking my 2011 Mazda RX-8 for 4 years. It is time to return that car to touring duty, before I tear up what is still a really nice car. I believe I have pushed that car as far is I can take it, short of adding power to the Renesis, and that usually ends similarly to marrying a stripper. (There might be a theme developing in this thread already.)

After driving a lot of students' cars and taking a really hard look at what could be a suitable and economical replacement for the excellent handling of the RX-8, I quite shockingly settled on a Miata. It ticks all of the boxes, except for one: fairly cheap to buy, reliable, inexpensive and plentiful parts, cheap tires, rear wheel drive, manual transmission, front and rear double wishbone suspension, nearly 50/50 weight distribution, light weight, great handling--all the good stuff everyone has known about Miatas for years. Just needs more power!

The Search

Unfortunately, this is not a "I scored a dirt cheap Miata to build into a track car!" story.

Somewhere around 2 years ago, I saved searches on all of the common places to shop for cars, looking for the right Miata. I looked at dozens of them, and came to the conclusion there is no dirt cheap way to do it right anymore, unless you simply get lucky. You can buy one that is still pretty fresh for a higher price, or you can buy one that needs a lot of work for a lower price, but you will end up in pretty much the same place in the end, in terms of outlay. The determining factors are how much work you are willing to do up front, and how your cash flow situation looks. In my area, you are going to spend about $7500 for an NB that is ready to start being prepped for the track, no matter which way you go about it. (I was initially choosy, and set out to buy the favored NA model, but that turned out to be a Skittles pooping unicorn, so I decided to take whatever I could find in the right condition at the right price.)

Last September, I received an email from a saved search with a link to a preliminary ad for a 2003 LS with only 63K miles. I immediately called the dealer to discuss the car and asked all the typical questions. The sales guy emailed me some cell phone pics, as they had just received the car on trade and had not serviced or cleaned it, let alone photographed it yet. It looked immaculate. I made an offer of $7000 cash with no service or cleaning needed. Just flip it to me for a little profit with zero additional work required. He initially declined, but after seeing it was the end of the month, and he had a quota to meet, he called back a few hours later and said they would take $7200 cash. Done deal. I picked it up that night.

The Car

It's red. And, it has tramp stamps. Lots of tramp stamps. Everywhere you might think of putting a tramp stamp, there is one. You will find tramp stamps in places you wouldn't think to look for tramp stamps also. The pinstripe "artist" should be taken out and shot with extreme prejudice after having his elbows and wrists broken.

Other than that, the car is immaculate. It looks like it just rolled out of a time capsule. There is quite literally nothing it needs, which is a little disappointing, actually. On the bright side, I get to skip all the fixing stuff and move immediately to the preparing for track duty stuff. The only peculiarity with the car is the Racing Beat dual exit exhaust. Everything else about the car is stock, right down to the brake pads.

Well, there is one thing. The drive train shudders when I start off in first in cold weather. I have read there was at least one clutch recall for that problem. It is going to receive a new clutch anyway, before the turbo is installed, so not really a problem. I will inspect the rest of the drive train's mounts and bushings, to make sure everything is solid there.

The CarFax shows a single owner, no accidents, and documented dealership service every 3000 miles. They even did the front of engine work.

This car is too nice for what I'm going to do to it. But, I'm still going to do it.

More to come...

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
1/1/17 10:21 a.m.

Disappointed in the lack of tramp stamp photos.

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 PowerDork
1/1/17 10:29 a.m.
Javelin wrote: Disappointed in the lack of tramp stamp photos.

TRUTH.

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/1/17 10:48 a.m.

The Build Plan

The plan for this car is to turn it into a sleeper track car. I want people to look at it and dismiss it as a barely adequate Miata. Then, I want to see their shocked faces as I pass them on the back straight. With that idea in mind, the car will keep most of its interior, and all of the performance work will be as subtle as possible.

I had initially planned to build this car over a 2 year period. I just sold a business, however, which means I had a bit of a windfall. Most of that will go into savings, but I am putting a small amount aside to accelerate the Super Tramp build a bit.

  1. Safety. All the obvious stuff here. It will need a roll bar and harnesses and eventually seats of some description.

  2. Reliability. This is also well-covered ground. Much of the reliability stuff was done at a Mazda dealer by the previous owner. A new radiator and hoses, and perhaps a coolant re-route will be the order of the day. Otherwise, I will inspect all the typical failure points, and make sure everything is sound.

  3. Handling. What little power the car has needs to get to the ground reliably. New coilovers, sway bar(s), end links, extended lower ball joints will be installed. Weak points will be addressed, and a performance alignment will be completed.

  4. Grip. Now that I can put all of 100WHP to the ground, I need grip to maintain momentum. New lightweight rims and NT01 or R888 tires will be installed.

  5. Brakes. With big grip, comes the need for big stopping power and heat dissipation. New pads, rotors, brake lines, and ducts are called for.

  6. Clutch. The clutch is a bit dodgy as described above. It is also about half gone. Before I can start the turbo project, I need to replace the clutch and its associated bits.

  7. Turbo. The layout of my home track dictates a turbo over a blower, so I'm 81.26% sure that's the route I will take. Around 200WHP should get the job done, but with bigger injectors and a new ECU, I can always ramp it up, if I feel I need to.

The Progress

Changed motor oil (Valvoline Synpower 10W30 and Napa Gold filter)

Changed transmission oil (Redline MT-90)

Changed differential oil (Redline 75W90)

Changed power steering fluid (Lucas PSF)

Flushed brake fluid (Redline RL-600)

Flushed clutch fluid (Redline RL-600)

Changed spark plugs (NGK BKR5E-11)

Changed air filter (Wix)

Yep. Really been wrenching on the old girl.

The most important task of all is also complete, which involves bolting on 53WHP. Track Dog, Moss, and others sell these for about $50, IIRC. I remembered seeing one at the local electronics surplus shop for $6, so I went back and nabbed one. Much faster now.

[Yes. That is a tramp stamp wrapped around it. ]

Mad_Ratel
Mad_Ratel Dork
1/1/17 11:06 a.m.

I do not see a tramp stamp?

OHSCrifle
OHSCrifle Dork
1/1/17 11:31 a.m.

Not sure Steve and I have same understanding of this term

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/1/17 11:34 a.m.

What? Am I being a tease? You guys are so trashy.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/1/17 11:36 a.m.

About that clutch shudder - I think it's the flywheel machining. Cars with this problem look as if they were machined with the feed turned too high. I'd recommend either a new flywheel or a resurface when you're doing the clutch.

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/1/17 11:43 a.m.

Thanks, Keith. This thread is way behind my actual progress with the car. A lot has already been done. I just ordered a happy meal clutch and lightweight flywheel from you guys yesterday.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
1/1/17 1:42 p.m.

That looks like a pretty nice find.

BTW, you thread over on RX8Club is responsible for me getting the Öhlins on my RX8.

IamFODI
IamFODI New Reader
1/1/17 2:39 p.m.

Hi, Steve! Just came over here from RX8Club myself. Good to see a familiar username. :]

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/1/17 4:58 p.m.

^^ Hey guys, great to see you over here where the cool people hang out! RX8 Club sure has gotten sleepy of late. I may have bought the Miata just to have a reason to post at GRM's happening forum.

codrus
codrus SuperDork
1/1/17 5:30 p.m.

A few thoughts as someone who's spent 15 years tracking a turbo NB. :)

1) Harnesses and stock seats do not play well together, so IMHO you either want to move up the priority of proper race seats, or push down the priority of harnesses.

2) Cooling is the biggest problem with turbo Miatas at the track. You need a coolant reroute, a big multi-pass radiator, and lots of ducting. If you can manage to remove the A/C that will help a TON.

4) If you're going to buy non-streetable R comps, go with RRs over R888s.

5) After cooling, brakes are the biggest problem with turbo Miatas at the track. I recommend a full "big brake kit", not just stock-level upgrades.

7) 10 years ago, 200rwhp in a Miata was a car that was very fast down the straight, but nowadays it's pretty mid-pack. It's much better than stock, don't get me wrong, but it's not the kind of power that will embarrass Mustang owners or anything. :-)

SHAKESBEARD
SHAKESBEARD New Reader
1/1/17 6:02 p.m.

SteveDallas. Inspirational. I'm not a Miata guy at heart(more of a muscle car guy) but seriously thinking Miata for my next track car. Keep up the good and humorous work.

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/1/17 6:52 p.m.

Roll Bar

As mentioned before, safety is the first concern for the Super Tramp. If track management sees a roll bar of any description, they will let me onto the track. And, since Miatas flatten like my ex-girfriend's [deleted by someone with a sense of dignity], it's a good feature to have for street driving as well. This car is for HPDE only. It will never see any competition, therefore I have no minimum standards to meet. I may autocross it a little bit, but since autoX is much like kissing my sister, it won't happen very often.

That means I can choose practically any roll bar that is strong enough to survive a roll-over event. Rather than deal with the compromises created by roll bars that pass the broomstick test, I wanted the bar that is the most out-of-the-way and easy to live with. After much research, I decided that bar is the Hard Dog Ace.

The Ace sits entirely in the package shelf. It has an integrated harness bar option. It is relatively lightweight, coming in at a little more than 30lbs. It sits a little lower and farther back (read: out of the way) than other options. It is compatible with OEM tops with glass windows. And, with the harness bar, it is less expensive than other models plus the bolt-in harness bar. The only thing I lose is the factory wind blocker, which I find useful, but heavy.

I decided against adding any diagonals after looking at dozens of Miata roll-over photos and seeing no difference in the functionality of the bar with and without them. I don't care for the clutter in the rear view mirror, and if they offer little to no benefit for my purposes, I'll keep the view and save the weight.

This could only be one thing.

Yep. Hard Dog packs these things very well.

I sprung for the SFI rated padding and cover. I could have gone redneck with cheaper bulk padding and wire ties, but I'll have plenty of opportunity for wire ties later.

Installation

I had a feeling it would be well worth the money to pay Track Dog to install this for me. But, I have a hangup about being the only person to wrench on my cars, short of alignment, so I decided to do it myself. I was right about that being worth the money thing. I didn't keep a time sheet, and I worked on it a few hours at a time over a period of many days, but I guesstimate this took 10 hours to install, not including several trips to the hardware store.

Other than common hand tools, power tools, and drill bits, an angle or bench grinder, right angle drill, drill press, step bit, and aviation shears are needed for the installation.

Nothing about the installation was difficult. It was time-consuming, tedious, boring, and at times, frustrating. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't.

In some areas, tolerances on the bar were very tight. It fit into the package shelf with just a half millimeter to spare, which made test fitting it a half dozen times fun.

The empty package shelf:

The helper-less strategery:

Fitting the left side:

Fitting the right side:

After cutting and priming (which should have included painting):

A view of my messy garage:

Not all of the tolerances were tight. Nothing a few stainless washers couldn't fix, but still disappointing:

Final fitting and marking the holes:

Remember those tolerances? This required a useless phone call to Hard Dog, plus an hour with the grinder and drill press:

Eventually, I got things to line up. I later hit all of this with undercoating.

The instructions initially said to cut the package shelf straight back. Three pages later, they said to cut the package shelf in half and work with one half at a time to make precision cut-outs for the roll bar. I did the former and cursed a lot when I read the latter.

Because of that, the carpet sags into the unsupported areas on the sides and exposes the primer. It should be OK for a track car, but it really bothers the perfectionist in me. I'll probably be looking for a used shelf for a do-over. And, I'll probably paint over all that primer with flat black, just to make sure. I don't have a photo of the carpet problem, and I don't care to go take one, because it really bothers the perfectionist in me, and I don't want photographic evidence of it hanging around.

The finished product:

Now that it is installed, this thing looks really low. Maybe I should have gone with the M2 Sport bar...

Harnesses

For harnesses, I made the obvious choice and ordered a pair of Schroth Rallye Cross ASM units. They are on backorder, so I don't have them yet.

I will eventually add suitable racing seats, but it will take me a while to complete the research and make a decision, considering my bad lower back.

Just a little bit more to do, and I can take the Super Tramp to the track for a baseline.

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/1/17 8:11 p.m.
codrus wrote: A few thoughts as someone who's spent 15 years tracking a turbo NB. :) 1) Harnesses and stock seats do not play well together, so IMHO you either want to move up the priority of proper race seats, or push down the priority of harnesses. 2) Cooling is the biggest problem with turbo Miatas at the track. You need a coolant reroute, a big multi-pass radiator, and lots of ducting. If you can manage to remove the A/C that will help a TON. 4) If you're going to buy non-streetable R comps, go with RRs over R888s. 5) After cooling, brakes are the biggest problem with turbo Miatas at the track. I recommend a full "big brake kit", not just stock-level upgrades. 7) 10 years ago, 200rwhp in a Miata was a car that was very fast down the straight, but nowadays it's pretty mid-pack. It's much better than stock, don't get me wrong, but it's not the kind of power that will embarrass Mustang owners or anything. :-)

Thanks for the info. It really is appreciated. A few comments:

  1. This is one of those things that everyone knows and almost everyone does anyway. I figured I would try it and see how it goes. If I don't feel comfortable with things, I'll move seats up in the priority list. That is going to take a lot of research and testing, due to my bad back.

  2. I figured I would need the coolant re-route and radiator. I plan to call FM and GWR to pick their brains about exactly what I need to do for cooling in advance of ordering the turbo kit.

  3. I drive my car to the track for most track days, which means DOT R comps at most. I'm too lazy to mess with trailers.

  4. I've kind of had that experience with brakes on my RX-8. They have plenty of stopping power with the right pads, but that generates tons of heat, and heat dissipation is less than adequate. I have been reluctant to duct my brakes due to cost of RX-8 stuff and things like oil coolers being in the way, but I figure I will try ducting with the Miata first and see if it proves to be enough. I actually can't remember seeing a BBK on a Miata at the track. It seems people are finding ways to make the stock brakes work. Maybe.

  5. 200WHP seems like a good starting place to me. It is what my RX-8 has, but the Miata is a much lighter car. If it doesn't prove to be enough, it is relatively affordable to add more if needed. My home track has short straights. When I can out-corner a Mustang by 20mph or more, their power usually isn't enough to overcome my corner exit speed in the distance they have to work with--unless they are very good drivers, that is.

KevinLG
KevinLG New Reader
1/1/17 9:53 p.m.

If you'd like a set of lightweight 15x7's (Kosei K4R at 11# a piece, or RPF1 at 9.5# a piece), let me know.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/1/17 10:14 p.m.

The Ace is not my first choice of a track bar. It's really, really low. Hopefully you're not a tall individual.

If you're not seeing upsized brakes on Miatas on the track, you're either hanging out with Spec Miatas or you're not looking. They're quite common.

200 whp can be enough. I've had a really good time chasing race-prepped BMWs in an ND rocking a whole 150 rwhp. Of course, I've usually got three times that on tap, but that just means you play with different people. The lower power makes you work harder, too.

codrus
codrus SuperDork
1/1/17 10:43 p.m.
SteveDallas wrote: 4. I drive my car to the track for most track days, which means DOT R comps at most. I'm too lazy to mess with trailers. 5. I actually can't remember seeing a BBK on a Miata at the track. It seems people are finding ways to make the stock brakes work. Maybe. 7. 200WHP seems like a good starting place to me.

If you want to drive it to the track, I'd stick with NT01s or RA1s. I've never used R888s, but from what I understand they heat cycle out much faster than the other two.

There's nothing wrong with 200 rwhp, it's certainly not a slow car at that power level, but it's not going to blow the socks off a Corvette or anything like that. :)

As far as brakes go, I've gone through a bunch of iterations on it. Major configurations included:

  • OEM calipers w/ OEM-sized rotors & Hawk Blue pads. At 200 rwhp, I would fade these pads in 4 or 5 laps

  • Goodwin v1/2 kit (11" fronts w/ Dynalite, 10.75" rears w/ stock calipers) with Wilwood "B" pads. At 250 rwhp these didn't fade, but the pads were coming apart and depositing badly on the rotors. I was getting 2-3 days per set of front rotors, and they were expensive.

  • Trackspeed 11.75" fronts w/ Dynapro, FM 10.75" rears w/ PowerLite, with DTC-60/DTC-30 pads and 2" brake ducts. I was getting 5 track days out of this set up before cracking the front rotors at 270 rwhp, but when I turned it up to 340 that went down to 2 track days again. It's also demolishing front pads in that same interval. This is with the cheap ($34 each) front rotors.

I have since upsized the ducts to 3", and am hoping that will bring be back to the 4-5 track day range. If not, I'll probably have to try the more expensive ($100 each) directional front rotors.

If you manage to exercise enough self control on the boost knob and keep it around 200 rwhp, the cheap 11" kits on the market will probably be fine.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/1/17 10:53 p.m.

Agreed on the RA1/NT01 as the pick of the streetable R comps.

The Wilwood "letter pads" aren't awesome. Go with the BP series, such as BP-40 or BP-20. On a 200 rwhp car, the latter would probably work pretty well. I run an 11" setup on the Targa Miata and it's only started being a weak point since I went from the 5.7 to the 6.2L LS3.

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/2/17 7:22 a.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: The Ace is not my first choice of a track bar. It's really, really low. Hopefully you're not a tall individual. If you're not seeing upsized brakes on Miatas on the track, you're either hanging out with Spec Miatas or you're not looking. They're quite common. 200 whp can be enough. I've had a really good time chasing race-prepped BMWs in an ND rocking a whole 150 rwhp. Of course, I've usually got three times that on tap, but that just means you play with different people. The lower power makes you work harder, too.

I took all the measurements into account, when I chose the Ace, and probably screwed that up somehow. I'm 5' 9" and shrinking. The Ace is kinda low, now that I have it installed. I definitely will not pass the broomstick test as it sits. Things will improve in that regard when I perform the foam-ectomy or install lower racing seats. I probably would not choose this bar again, but it is in there now. Keep the application in mind. I am tracking the car in a safe environment with other instructors, where there is a 99.92% chance nothing will ever happen. I feel much more at risk on the street.

I think the BBK thing may depend on application, region, or specific tracks being driven. I hang out with HPDE folks and NASA / SCCA time trial people. I happen to have attended a time trial event a few months ago, where there were a lot of Miatas present, and I took pictures of as many rim and tire setups as owners would let me. I just looked back over those, and all are using stock calipers. In any case, I will do what needs to be done, when I get to that point.

I like driving with lower power. It forces you to become a better driver, if you want to hang with the "faster" cars.

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/2/17 7:57 a.m.

Back to the fun stuff.

Regardless of what I decide to do with forced induction, the Super Tramp will need additional cooling capacity and cooling system reliability as long as it is tracked in NA form.

I came across this Purinarad V series 36mm radiator on sale, with an additional coupon code, and with free shipping. Pretty sure the vendor didn't mean to do that. It arrived at my house for a little over $120. I have a Koyo HH series radiator in my RX-8, and it fits perfectly and has performed very well for me in the extreme Texas summer heat. Even if this doesn't end up being the final solution, it should be a good stop-gap. I normally believe in buying once and crying once, but I should get a year out of this and be able to re-sell it for pretty close to what I have in it when the time comes.

Obviously, ducting and sealing will be required before the 100F summer arrives here. I have also researched the coolant re-route to death and decided it needs to be done. The only question now is whether to be a credit card mechanic and buy the kit or roll my own.

Installation was dead simple and took about an hour and a half. The radiator fit perfectly, and there were no issues or surprises. Everything bolted right up.

While I was in there, I replaced the radiator, heater, and bypass hoses with new Gates units from Rock Auto. Peace of mind for $25 is always worth it, when dealing with 13 year-old rubber. I also replaced the thermostat with an OEM Mazda unit. A 16psi radiator cap was installed, considering the age of the old one. I paid too much for that, but adding shipping to a cheap one would put it within a couple of dollars.

The coolant bottle was pretty dirty inside. There was nothing alarming--mainly just oxidation. I cleaned it by filling it half full of soapy water, adding a bunch of BBs from my son's Red Ryder BB gun, and shaking it vigorously. It looks as good as new now, but I shot my headlight out.

For coolant, I flushed the block and heater core with distilled water and left whatever amount of water they wanted to hold in them. I added about 1 gallon of Mazda FL-22 and burped the system while monitoring the coolant temp with Torque on my phone without event. Upon measuring the glycol concentration, I found the coolant is protected against freezing to -10F, which is more than good enough for my climate. Unfortunately, the Tramp will be an outside car until the new house is built, so I have to run anti-freeze during the winter months.

The condition of the old coolant was quite good. It came out looking very clean, considering the age of the car. That reinforces the CarFax reports showing dealer service every 3000 miles. It had been changed a couple of times at least, and it was the same shade of green as Mazda FL-22.

Gone are the plastic radiator tanks, old rubber, and old-ish coolant. This car is ready for a baseline run at the track.

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/2/17 10:02 a.m.

December 10, was the Super Tramp's first outing at Motorsport Ranch in Cresson, TX, running the 1.7 mile track in CCW configuration. The goal was to get in a few clean hot laps to establish a baseline for this car on street tires, which were BFG Sport Comp 2s with a treadwear rating of 340.

Unfortunately, conditions were not quite what I had hoped. We started out in the low 40s in the morning, and the air was heavy with mist. As the day progressed, the temperature rose to 53F, but the wind picked up, and the mist never fully moved on, which made the wind chill colder. The track did not fully dry all day, unfortunately.

Driving in the morning conditions gave me an opportunity to learn the tendencies of the car and to get used to not having ABS, which was a first for me. That experience basically involved learning threshold braking all over again. By session 5, I was feeling confident and driving as hard as the weather would let me, but I was getting passed so much, that I was not able to establish a clean lap. Session 6 was a little better, but I still did not manage a single clean hot lap. On the last hot lap, I locked up the inside rear when braking from 105 down to 65mph and flat spotted a tire. Otherwise, the day went without incident. The thump-thump-thump-thump of the rear tire on the way home was an amusing reminder of what happens, when I settle into habit and zone out on the details. That was an $82 lesson.

In my track prepared RX-8 on NT01s, I normally run laps in the 1:28s on that track in that configuration (in better conditions). The best I was able to do in the Miata was a 1:40. I left 2 or 3 seconds on the table out there, but I at least have an idea of what the car can do stock.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the car handled on its 13 year-old stock suspension. It was basically neutral and pretty easy to drive. As you can imagine, there was plenty of body roll to be had. It had a tendency toward corner entry understeer. It would take a while to set and transition, then would act mostly neutral on corner exit, with a slight tendency to oversteer in some corners. Push... Push... Wait for it... Zoom... Drift... Wheeeeee!

This is basically useless information, considering the outside ambient temperatures, but according to the logs, my coolant temp never rose above 199F.

I don't have any track pictures for you, so here's a photo of the flat-spotted tire for you to laugh at:

I found a guy on Craigslist selling a set of Miata rims with a nearly new set of the same tires. I talked him into selling me just the tires for $150 if I took care of the dismount. Now I have several more of these to destroy.

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/2/17 8:00 p.m.

The next installment in "Guy Pays Full Price for Miata and Bolts Stuff On" is a suspension overhaul.

There is a thread on here somewhere, in which I waffle and grouse about spring rates and shock valving, generally annoy people, and finally make an uncommitted decision. Maybe I'll try to find it later.

FM's Fox setup eventually won out, although Xida coilovers were a very close second. I also took a long, hard look at Feal coilovers, considering their lower cost, and the fact that I don't have winnings on the line with what I do. The fog of analysis paralysis cleared, when I realized any of these options is better than I am, and I will likely never be good enough to outdrive them. So, made in the USA and serviceable in the USA won out over what might be a tiny performance advantage in the Xidas. I also like the idea of at least starting with lower spring rates and working my way up, only should it prove necessary. I can't help but think the 800lbs front springs 949 recommended would eventually sever my spine.

Coilovers

In perusing FM's site, I noticed the NA version is available with new NB tophats and other bits for $100 extra. There is a photo of an assembled set of coilovers with those parts installed. Based solely on that photo and without a shred of reason to believe it might be true, my Grinch heart warmed and melted with the idea they might come that way and save me 30 minutes of assembly time and some storage frustration with the old parts (since they can now be stored complete). Yeah. That first part didn't happen.

At least the shocks are wearing condoms.

Thirty minutes or so with the parts and instructions later, and they were put together. Amusingly, the instructions have you assemble them with the helper springs on top, but the website photos have them on bottom. I've never known it to matter with low-rate helpers, so I went with the instructions. Hey, when on top, they are technically sprung weight, right? RIGHT?!

There are several ingenious features designed into these coilovers. I'll leave most of them to be described by FM's web site. A couple of things I really like are the height adusters being clamp types, and the fact that the spring length plus helpers creates a preload situation under droop, that allows you to adjust ride height easily with 1 hand and without tools. Very nice. OTOH, I prefer the fixed preload approach used by Ohlins, JIC, and others, but FM and Fox designed the preload to be reasonable at the suggested ride height.

Speaking of ride height, the instructions give a spring perch location for the fronts and rears. Being that this is a heavier NB2 Miata, I added 1/4" to the recommendations, because I am far smarter than the folks at FM. Yeah. So. I'll be lowering the ride height by at least 1/4" in the near future. I really showed them!

Everyone knows the drill with regard to installing coilovers in a Miata. I did some other work and took my time, so I don't have an isolated time-to-install for the coilovers, but I would guess under 2 hours start to finish for this 1st timer to Miatas. Now that I have done it once, I'm sure I could do it in under an hour--assuming I have the fetching Mrs. Dallas to lend her 110lbs to stand on the rear lower arms and not be heavy enough again. Must start feeding that woman.

There is 1 installation note. We all know the importance of torquing A arms and suspension links under load. The instructions say to put the car on the ground, roll it back and forth a few times, then torque the specified bolts. Eh. The car is 4.75" off the ground at the pinch welds now. There is no way to get my puny arms in there, much less my fat head to see what I am doing, and certainly no clearance for a torque wrench to have any range of motion. Placing the car on 3" blocks still does not provide enough room to be useful. I'm sure this works if you have a tray lift or many more blocks.

My approach to this has usually been to 1. Put the car on the ground, bounce on the door sills a few times on each side, then measure the fender to center of hub distance all around. 2. Put the car back in the air and place a jack plus 1x4 block under the ball joint and jack up the hub to the previously measured height (the jack stand on that corner will become barely loose). 3. Torque the specified bolts. This accomplishes the same thing and saves a lot of time, frustration, and future old man soreness.

Front:

Rear:

Front adjustment is easy:

Rear is too, if you don't have junk in your trunk:

SteveDallas
SteveDallas New Reader
1/2/17 8:10 p.m.

Other Suspension Junk

While I had everything apart, I wanted to take care of some obvious suspension setup parts and adjustments. Those were:

  1. Heavier front sway bar

  2. Adjustable end links all around

  3. Front sway bar reinforcement

  4. Front extended lower ball joints

There is a lot of information available on how to set up various Miatas for the track. Naturally, I ignored that information for my NB2 and added FM's NB front bar to my coilover order instead of the specified Racing Beat bar I see recommended everywhere. I figure FM isn't stupid (except for when they make spring perch location suggestions, of course), so this bar can't be far off. Not really. I actually did the math and calculated this bar to be more likely to give me the balance I want for my style of driving with the stock rear. If the car understeers too much, I can always add the MSM rear bar. If it oversteers too much, I can yell at the car for its out-of-control trampy ways and order the dang Racing Beat bar.

It is surprising to me how many people either do not know about or ignore the fact that you need to properly set sway bar preload, when you lower your car. There isn't much to go on about here, other than to say I have Whiteline end links on my RX-8, and they pop and click enough to be annoying. So, I decided to be lazy and throw FM's adjustable links in my cart to see how I like them. FM will start paying me for this advertising any minute now. I just know it. Maybe I need to show some leg first.

The Miata's front sway bar mount locations are weak when used with a heavy front bar, so I ordered Racing Beat's reinforcement kit. I'm sure it works as advertised, but due to the way it is made, it will make greasing the front sway bar bushings a royal PIA. I should have drilled and tapped the FM brackets and bushings for grease zerks. I will either do that in the future or explore other reinforcement solutions. I certainly will not be taking all this apart every few months.

Other than that, I installed Bauer extended lower ball joints in the front for 3 degrees of extra negative camber adjustment. One of the frustrations I have long had with my RX-8 has been my inability to dial in more than 2.2 degrees of negative camber. There are solutions to that problem, but they are imperfect, so I never employed any of them. The Miata's easily replaceable ball joints make adding negative camber cheap and easy. All you need for installation is a couple of wrenches a and a BFH.

FM front bar with Racing Beat reinforcement:

FM front bar, FM end link (temporarily pointed the wrong way just to hold the bar up), and RB reinforcement kit:

Bauer extended lower ball joint:

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